The purpose of the Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections is to provide journalists, teachers, students, and citizens with a comprehensive guide to the language of contemporary American politics. This is no easy task, for the language of politics, like any other specialized language, is filled with complex terms whose meanings, though grounded in history, continue to evolve. So, for example, the citizen who wants to understand a term like "gerrymandering" ought to know something about the eighteenth century politician Elbridge Gerry, and even more about current debates over voting districts and voting rights. Yet this is not the sort of information that is currently available in most political encyclopedias. Instead, existing encyclopedias tend to focus on particular elements within politics--for instance, political parties. Moreover, they are often written for political scholars and are therefore inaccessible to the average reader.
This encyclopedia is different in that it is intended for both the professional and the amateur. Much of this book consists of easy-to-understand explanations of both common and complex political terms. We also provide brief biographies of major political figures, descriptions of significant political parties and movements, and explanations of important cases about elections and campaign finance law decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. Finally, under the term "elections" the reader will find a detailed account of the presidential elections and campaigns held since the Constitution was ratified in 1788.
For ease of use, all of the entries are arranged alphabetically. To aid those who are seeking a more comprehensive understanding of American politics, we have cross-referenced related entries. In addition, after most of the entries, we have provided a list of books and/or articles that might be helpful to those wishing to learn more about a selected topic. A detailed index is located at the end of this encyclopedia.